Sitting MPs who haven’t paid their water, power and telephone dues for three months or more face immediate disconnection, the Delhi high court said on Friday while also suggesting that the Election Commission insist on ‘no-dues’ declarations from candidates as a precondition to fighting polls.
In a landmark verdict, a bench of chief justice G Rohini and justice RS Endlaw directed government agencies providing chargeable facilities to the official premises of MPs, MLAs and political parties not to allow arrears of more than three months to accumulate.
“If the said charges are in arrears for three months, the facility/amenity/utility be disconnected forthwith, of course in accordance with law,” it said, acting on a public interest litigation filed in 1998 by the NGO Krishak Bharat.
In keeping with the judiciary’s proactive pursuance of poll reforms through various orders these last two years, the high court asked the EC to consider creating “impediments” to candidates who have defaulted on such payments, “to ensure quick recovery of dues” within six months.It asked the EC to insist candidates give ‘no-dues certificates’ from the relevant agencies and that parties furnish similar affidavits as a pre-condition to fielding candidates in elections.
The petitioner had alleged that many former MPs had left huge utility dues when they vacated their official residences. The court rapped the government agencies for “a total lack of will” in recovering dues running into crores in the last 18 years.State-run telecom MTNL had in September 2014 told the court that Rs 6.43 crore in dues was pending against 316 sitting MPs, ex-MPs and ex-ministers. Similarly, the New Delhi Municipal Council had quoted an amount of Rs 5.7 crore in unpaid power and water bills.
In April this year, the Lok Sabha Secretariat told the court that over 300 such politicians had dues — and that while it had started deducting Rs 10,000 monthly from the salary of every defaulting sitting MP, it was unable to make any recovery from ex-MPs.